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Brain Fitness Survey: We Need More Brain Awareness Weeks!

If you sub­scribe to our month­ly newslet­ter, you may remem­ber we ran a sur­vey in Jan­u­ary. Well, the response rate and the qual­i­ty of the respons­es were noth­ing short of spec­tac­u­lar, in many dimen­sions. The respons­es from over 2,000 par­tic­i­pants (out of 21,000 sub­scribers) rein­force the need for pub­lic aware­ness ini­tia­tives and qual­i­ty infor­ma­tion to help eval­u­ate and nav­i­gate prod­uct claims.

I have been pre­sent­ing the results from one of the ques­tions (see below), yes­ter­day at the ASA/ NCOA (Amer­i­can Soci­ety on Aging) event, today at IHRSA (Inter­na­tion­al Health, Rac­quet and Sports­club Asso­ci­a­tion), as part of more com­pre­hen­sive pre­sen­ta­tions of what is going on in the brain fit­ness and cog­ni­tive health field.

An obvi­ous impli­ca­tion for the sur­vey result rein­forces the need for brain-relat­ed pub­lic aware­ness cam­paigns such as the ongo­ing Brain Aware­ness Week. Every year, land­mark research find­ings open new oppor­tu­ni­ties to help main­tain life­long cog­ni­tive health and brain fit­ness. The oppor­tu­ni­ty is immense — but we will need to ensure the mar­ket­place matures in a ratio­nal and sus­tain­able man­ner, help­ing con­sumers and pro­fes­sion­als sep­a­rate hope from hype and make informed deci­sions.

Robin Klaus, Chair­man of Club One Fit­ness Cen­ters (the com­pa­ny is a client, he is an advi­sor), just gave us a nice quote say­ing that “as our pop­u­la­tion ages the fields of phys­i­cal fit­ness and brain fit­ness will nat­u­ral­ly merge and, as this hap­pens, a whole new field of val­ued added ser­vices will emerge for our mem­bers. High qual­i­ty infor­ma­tion­al resources such as Sharp­Brains’ are cru­cial to the suc­cess of this merg­er.”

The Sur­vey: Results to Key Ques­tion

Asked, “What is the most impor­tant prob­lem you see in the brain fit­ness field and how do you think it can be solved?” respon­dents iden­ti­fied the fol­low­ing six prob­lems in rank order:

#1: Pub­lic Aware­ness (39%)
— “Get­ting peo­ple to under­stand that hered­i­ty alone does not decide brain func­tion­ing.”
— “An expec­tant pub­lic will first want to believe that a “mir­a­cle” drug is to be soon avail­able (to pre­vent Alzheimer’s Dis­ease).”

#2: Nav­i­gat­ing Claims (21%)
- “How to sep­a­rate mar­ket­ing hype from stuff that real­ly works?”
— “The lack of stan­dards and clear def­i­n­i­tions is very con­fus­ing, and makes a lot of peo­ple scep­ti­cal.”

#3: Research (15%)
— “Deter­min­ing what activ­i­ties are most ben­e­fi­cial to the user with the min­i­mum lev­el of effort or most over­lap of the already exist­ing efforts.”

#4: Health­care Cul­ture (14%)
— “Inte­gra­tion with­in exist­ing health­care infra­struc­tures — this will require research, edu­ca­tion, and cul­ture change. If brain fit­ness remains a niche alter­na­tive approach for the well-healed, we will have failed.”

#5: Lack of Assess­ment (6%)
— “Lack of devel­op­ment of stan­dard­ized and eas­i­ly acces­si­ble assess­ments of cog­ni­tive sta­tus that could be used by indi­vid­u­als and orga­ni­za­tions to test the effi­ca­cy of cog­ni­tive improve­ment meth­ods.”

#6: Oth­er prob­lems (5%)
— “Lack of infor­ma­tion and prod­ucts avail­able to peo­ple — per­haps a dri­ve to get the prod­ucts and infor­ma­tion in pub­lic libraries would help.”

Note: The full results and analy­sis of the com­plete sur­vey will be includ­ed in the upcom­ing Sharp­Brains mar­ket report, The State of the Brain Fit­ness Soft­ware Mar­ket 2009.

What can be done to solve these prob­lems?

#1 Pub­lic Aware­ness: Par­tic­i­pate in Brain Aware­ness Week activ­i­ties!

#2 Nav­i­gat­ing claims: we are pub­lish­ing short­ly 2 new resources to help exec­u­tives, pro­fes­sion­als and con­sumers under­stand the emerg­ing field and nav­i­gate the mul­ti­plic­i­ty of claims:

1) Mar­ket Report- The State of the Brains Fit­ness Soft­ware Mar­ket 2009 (April 2009): A com­pre­hen­sive report review­ing the state of the research and mar­ket, includ­ing 2008 mar­ket data, an analy­sis of the land­scape and trends in 4 major mar­ket seg­ments, 10 research exec­u­tive briefs writ­ten by lead­ing sci­en­tists, deep pro­files of over 20 com­pa­nies, and the results of the full mar­ket sur­vey intro­duced above.

2) Con­sumer Guide- The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness: 18 Inter­views with Sci­en­tists, Prac­ti­cal Advice, and Prod­uct Reviews to Keep Your Brain Sharp (May 2009): In sev­en well-researched and ful­ly anno­tat­ed chap­ters, the guide pro­vides a con­cise overview of the four pil­lars of life­long brain main­te­nance and an invalu­able per­spec­tive on the grow­ing field of Brain Fit­ness. The guide eval­u­ates the most cur­rent evi­dence behind a num­ber of prod­ucts mak­ing brain fit­ness claims so that read­ers can make informed deci­sions and bet­ter under­stand emerg­ing trends.

Fyi, the mar­ket report will explore all iden­ti­fied prob­lems in more depth (includ­ing research, health cul­ture, lack of assess­ment, oth­er), and sug­gest actions to solve them and help the field mature in a more ratio­nal and struc­tured man­ner.

Every­one: Have a great Brain Aware­ness Week!

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As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, CNN, Reuters, and more, SharpBrains is an independent market research firm and think tank tracking health and performance applications of brain science.